Complaining often feels like the sweet nectar of life. A quick whine gets you out of bed in the morning, grumbling gets you through the work day, and loud, angry complaints get you all the way home again. It can turn into quite the habit. But complaining less throughout the day is not only nicer for everyone around you — it can also greatly improve your outlook on life.
That's because we rarely think about our complaints, or the effect they have on everything and everyone. And, we rarely use them for good, even though some complaints can bring about change. According to Hagar Scher to WebMD, there are two types of complaints: instrumental and expressive.
The instrumental kind are goal-oriented. Like, you might politely complain about your food in a restaurant because it wasn't cooked the way you asked. This type of complaint is alright, because it enacts change and gets you the food you actually wanted. But the more common kind are expressive complaints, which exist solely to let the speaker get something off his or her chest. And let's be honest, this is more our goal when we open our mouths to gripe.
Expressive complaints seek out acknowledgement and sympathy, which is fine, but some people abuse them and have no real interest in dialogue, problem solving, or human connection, Scher said. When that's the case, your complaining habit can turn you into "that person" on social media, it can get you into trouble at work, it may start to ruin some friendships, and it can even make daily life seem that much more negative.
So if can't help yourself, and whining has become your MO, then you might want to look into some ways to break your complaining habit, once and for all.
1. Do A No-Complaining Practice Run
Unless you have the willpower of a god, going cold turkey with your complaining habit will probably end up backfiring. This is especially the case since it takes a while to form a new habit. So ease into it with a "no complaining" practice run. As Mary Jo Dilonardo noted on MSN.com, "Start by committing to a day of no complaints. Observe how you feel. Then commit to two days. Then a week. Soon you'll have killed your desire to complain at all because you realize how good it feels not to."
2. Change Your Vocabulary
Many of us are in the habit of using some pretty harsh vocabulary for things that aren't so bad. For example, a rainy day is a "miserable" day, the sun is "scorching," and the week is "unending." Don't all those words have some stank of them? (I think so.)
When you use negative and/or dramatic words like these to describe normal things (i.e., the rain, the sun, the days of the week), you're essentially complaining without even realizing it. Switch your vocab to less heavy words, and you'll start to have a more positive outlook.
3. Don't Start Off Every Convo With A Complaint
We all do it — complain about the weather, gripe about work, whine about our stress. Complaining has become the normal and accepted way to start conversations. As Joshua Becker noted on BecomingMinimalist.com, "... this tactic is used because it garners a heightened response." Which makes sense, because a complaint can work to get people in your court, so to speak, and then a whining fest can begin. Instead of using this cheap trick to get a convo rolling, start off with a compliment, a nice observation, or an upbeat question. You'll notice a major switch in your mood, and the moods of everyone around you.
4. Be Aware Of What Triggers You
Start to take note of which situations or places annoy you most and send you on a complaining spree. "Is there a specific time period of the day you tend to complain more than others? ... Take notice. Then, avoid triggers if possible. If they cannot be avoided, make a point to be extra vigilant when you see them arise," Becker suggested. So if you just can't keep your cool while waiting in line for coffee, don't go during busy hours. Or if a traffic jam causes you to flood Facebook with hateful posts, then stay a bit later at work while the commuting time winds down. You'll feel much more at peace, and so will your friends, family, and followers.
5. Put A Positive Spin On Things
Complaining often goes hand in hand with a deeply ingrained negative outlook, so putting a positive spin on things may feel like the last thing you want to do. But you've gotta get in the habit of looking on the bright side, even if it feels impossible. According to Katherine Eion on Lifehack.org, "Accept that life is just plain messy. No one and no situation is or can be ‘perfect.’ ... When you inevitably experience set-backs, move forward and remember that everyone has them." Probably far easier said than done, but it's a skill worth practicing.
6. Allow Yourself To Vent A Little
OK, so there's a huge difference between being a 24/7 complainer, and having the occasional healthy venting session. Because, let's be honest, letting off some steam is necessary every now and then. As Lauren Stewart noted on TinyBuddha.com, "Constantly ignoring your negative thoughts could add up. If you are really going through a rough time, don’t be afraid to share your feelings with a close friend or family member or see a therapist." So vent away, as long as you know when to stop.
Complaining is one of those things that feels good in the moment, but isn't actually that great for you, or anyone who has to listen. Get to know the difference between complaining and normal, healthy conversation. Then start to move in the latter direction.